Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: J.J. Redick didn’t have a three-pointer for close to 30 minutes of the contest, but once they started falling, they didn’t stop. 21 of his 25 points were scored in the second half, including all five of his threes and each of his last eight field goal attempts.
That was … an offensive awakening: Whether it was due to the second night of a back-to-back or the absence of one Blake Griffin, the Clippers only scored 18 points in the first quarter and it looked like it might be one of those nights for the road team. Instead, the team would score 30 or more points in each of the next three quarters on their way to the victory.
X factor: The Clippers reached a season-high on made three-pointers with 13 of them on a season-best 50% behind the arc. Six of those 10 attempts were made in a third-quarter that saw the Clippers lead grow to double-digits.
— Brandon Tomyoy
Tweet(s) Of The Game
DeAndre slamming the ball and getting a tech with Blake hurt is the basketball equivalent of pouring one out for your homies.
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 27, 2015
Has Paul Pierce, clearly turning back the clock tonight, discovered the Fountain of Truth?
— Brandon Tomyoy 譚定宇 (@dingyu) December 27, 2015
JJ said it basically took a half of doing it on the fly for the starters to figure out how to get open without Blake on the court.
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) December 27, 2015
Check Your Messages
The Beautiful Struggle
An interesting thing happens to teams when their star players go down with injuries. Sure, they struggle to score, defend, execute down the stretch… but within that struggle, we start to see glimpses of what they can be. Players come to grips with their roles, with their identities; either they falter under the pressure, or they find themselves, discover confidence they may have been searching for all season, and show that they are up to the challenge.
Certainly, at the outset of tonight’s game, the Clippers struggled. They struggled to score, only putting 18 points on the board in the first quarter. They struggled to defend, letting Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood score seemingly at will all through the second half, and putting the Jazz into the bonus early in the fourth. All told the Clippers fouled 23 times; you know they struggled in their execution at both ends. And then that interesting thing happened.
Paul Pierce, whom we’d long written off as a possible contributor, attempted 7 three-pointers and made 5. JJ Redick put up those same numbers (expected), while also shooting perfectly from the charity line on the night (not unexpected, but pleasant to see). Doc may not have liked what he saw from Josh Smith starting this evening, but DeAndre Jordan certainly picked up the slack, with 14 points and 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, looking like every penny of his controversial offseason free agency deal. The Clippers, without their number one scorer, and second most-important playmaker, were able to gut out a win against a scrappy opponent, showing that they can adapt to adversity. The Ship Gang is entering a crucible on this road trip, with plenty more ugly games ahead; perhaps they will emerge on the other side as something truly beautiful.
– Aaron Williams
That’s Why They Brought Me Here
For only the 3rd time in his Hall-of-Fame career, Paul Pierce dropped 20 points off the bench. For the 1st time in his career, he hit 5 threes off the pine. And he did it all in a bench-high 27 minutes.
It’s not realistic to think that Pierce is going to be able to perform this well more than maybe once a week, but he’s going to get every opportunity. Relationships are so important in sports, and you can just see the difference that intangible factor makes when it comes to Pierce and the nominal starting power forward tonight, Josh Smith. Pierce has the trust of Doc Rivers, and though he is in the midst of a career-worst season at age 38, Pierce is going to get some liberation over the next two weeks. It worked out tonight.
Smith, on the other hand, played just under 5 minutes tonight. That was it – Pierce started the 2nd half. Not even Spencer Hawes got less than 10 minutes in a start last season when Blake Griffin was out.
The next few weeks will be fascinating as it relates to who this team trusts on the court. And when that is factored in – Pierce is the surest bet of all the variables in the Clippers’ deck of wild cards.
– Law Murray
The Clippers began what appeared a routine day-after-Christmas, continuing a pivotal road trip that can catapult them or flatten them in the standings. What unfolded was a roller-coaster Saturday in which the news of Blake Griffin’s partial tear of the quadriceps tendon draped a thick melancholy atmosphere over the team. Just as things appeared to turn the corner, the player the Clippers could arguably least afford to lose would be grounded for at least two weeks.
Fortunately, they had little time to wallow. An away affair in Utah is difficult enough without a defeated attitude. What the Griffin absence does is force a lot of the Clippers newly added depth to the forefront. An absence of the magnitude of Griffin will usually place immense pressure on Chris Paul to score — risking taking him away from other playmaking duties.
Instead, there were plenty others who emerged to plug holes. J.J. Redick was relentless in the second half in leading a three-point scoring barrage with 25 points and five three-pointers. Paul Pierce warped into ‘Boston Pierce’ in dropping five treys himself. This rate of shooting and scoring is probably unlikely to continue. And even though the story from this game is largely the re-emergence of Pierce and the clutch scoring from Redick, that doesn’t have to be the case every night as long as enough firepower is supplied by anyone outside of Chris Paul. Following a similar blueprint can help them weather the short-term absence of Griffin.
– Kaveh Jam